UN HRC inquired about situation of ethnic and religious minorities, LGBTI+ in Russia

During its 129th session, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) posed questions to Russian authorities about the country’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In the alternative information submitted to the UN HRC, Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial” and the St. Petersburg-based NGO Citizens’ Watch described the cases of torture and violation of access to a fair trial for representatives of ethnic and religious minorities, in particular the persons convicted in the case of the terrorist attack in the St. Petersburg metro in 2017. The members of the Committee posed questions to Russia about torture and ill-treatment of detained with the aim of obtaining confessions in legal cases on charges of terrorism (the “Network” case, persecution of “Hizb ut-Tahrir”), about the unlawful application of anti-terrorist legislation for persecution of oppositional activists and restricting freedom of speech and media reporting (in particular, the case of journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva).

The experts of UN HRC noted numerous violations of human rights in the annexed Crimea, inquired about the measures taken by the Russian state to ensure the unimpeded activity of religious communities on the peninsula and the functioning of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars. Russia will have to report on the investigation into the alleged disappearances of Crimean Tatar activists, comment on reported ban on entry for some Crimean Tatar leaders into Crimea, intimidation and detention of Crimean journalists and bloggers who had criticized the authorities.

The Committee inquired about the progress of the previously recommended revision of the law on countering extremist activities and the list of extremist publications, as well as measures to end the arbitrary application of anti-extremist legislation. Experts are concerned about violations of freedom of conscience and reprisals against Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were accused of extremism.

The Committee noted the prevalence of racist and homophobic hate speech in the media and on the Internet, including statements made by politicians and religious leaders, and inquired about the measures to prevent ethnic profiling by law enforcement agencies.

Russia will have to report on the progress of investigations into numerous human rights violations in the Northern Caucasus, including abductions of people, extrajudicial killings, ill-treatment, violence against women and LGBTI+ persons, as well as the case of the murdered human rights defender Natalya Estemirova. The country’s authorities will have to comment on reports of constant harassment of journalists and human rights activists in the Northern Caucasus, in particular, Oyub Titiev.

Noting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), the UN Committee asked questions about the mass detention and torture of LGBTI+ people in Chechnya, and whether Russian law qualified SOGI-based attacks as hate crimes. The Russian authorities were asked about the enactment of a law against domestic violence, legal norms punishing marital rape, female genital mutilation and “honor killings”. The problem of harmful traditional practices and multiple discrimination against women, including LBT, was raised in a joint report presented to the Committee by ADC “Memorial” and Russian LGBT Network.

The Committee expressed its concerns about the obstacles to the activities of human rights defenders and posed questions about the repeal of the repressive laws on NGOs, which had been labelled “foreign agents” and “undesirable organizations”.